Paul, writing from prison, is still able to rejoice because the gospel is being preached. There was then, just as there is today, a great many differences in the way the gospel is presented and in the motivations behind the presentation of the gospel. The important thing was that Christ was preached. Jesus Christ must be honored in our lives and in our deaths. In today’s passage Paul is struggling with the desire to depart and be with Christ. At the same time, he recognizes that it is important for him to remain alive. He wants to continue his ministry until the very day that Christ returns or calls him home.
Listen while I read Philippians 1:18b-26. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Paul had confidence that…
The prayers of the Philippians will help set him free.
Prayer is an important theme in all of Paul’s letters. In most of his letters he included a prayer for the people to whom he was writing. He wrote to the Corinthians asking for them to help him by prayer and also to Philemon whom he asked to put feet on his prayers by preparing a room for him to stay in when he came, after he was delivered through their prayers! In fact, we today do not put enough stock in the power of prayer. I remember when I was a child it was common to have cardboard plaques around the house with sayings on them in glue and glitter. One I remember was, “Prayer Changes Things”. I believe that’s true but it is also true that prayer changes people. Paul calls on the Philippian people that they might pray that he would be released from prison…
And he will not be embarrassed in his testimony.
We learn a lot from reading the personal requests of men like Paul. We know that the early church was severely persecuted and that there were times when Christians fell away from the faith. Throughout the history of the church there have been times of persecution that have caused many Christians to renounce their faith. At the time of Paul’s arrest it was possible that he would be asked to honor Caesar as a god. Many Christians were faced with that demand. The Romans did not understand why it was impossible to say, “Caesar is Lord”. They knew it really didn’t mean anything but for the Christian such a statement meant everything. Often the Christian would be brought to the place where they should make this statement and instead they would say, “Christ is Lord”! They would then be led away to execution. Rather than causing the Christian population to be reduced those executions seemed to cause the growth of the church. In fact, the early Christian writer Tertullian stated that, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”.
Paul was very concerned that he might fail to stand up when it came to his execution. I am sure he was aware of the words of Jesus, “… whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” It’s one thing to be ashamed of our own actions but to be ashamed of Jesus could lead to frightening consequences! To be ashamed of Jesus could lead to denying Jesus! Jesus said if we deny him he will deny us! In his letter to the Romans Paul had proudly proclaimed, “I am not ashamed of the gospel”. Now he called for prayer because he did not want to be ashamed — he wanted…
Christ to be honored by his life. Turn with me to Galatians 2:20. Here Paul is sharing his testimony. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Paul believed, and taught, that when a person comes to Christ the old life is positionally put to death and the believer enters into a new life. He knew that Christ would be honored by his life because the life he lived, he lived by faith in the Son of God. We need to remember Paul’s words, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live our whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:7-8)
Paul did not want to be ashamed if he had to face death for Christ. He wanted Christ be honored by his life and he also wanted…
Christ to be honored by his death. Sometime later, Paul wrote to Timothy as he approached his expected execution. Turn with me to 2 Timothy 4:6-8. He could see the handwriting on the wall, so to speak. Listen while I read. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Because of the prayers of many people all over the Roman world Paul was able to assert, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was awaiting him a crown of righteousness.
Praise God! Paul would not be ashamed when it came to giving up his life for the Lord Jesus Christ. I can only pray that I would be able to face execution for Christ with an equal confidence. We will each surely give an account of himself to the Lord. I feel fear when I think that I have to face God’s judgment with so many things that I’ve done in my life. And then I remember that the word of God tells us that God made us alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. He set it aside, nailing it to the cross. I praise God for the forgiveness that comes to us because of the cross of Christ. The Christian…
Life is nothing less than Christ. Turn with me to John 17:20-23. Now listen to the words of Jesus. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
In Jesus’ high priestly prayer He prayed for us as well as his disciples. He prayed that we will have unity with one another that is as strong as the unity Jesus and the Father have with each other.
How does that work? Imagine a set of nesting boxes. The outer box represents the Christian believer. The next nesting box represents Jesus inside the believer. Inside the box representing Jesus is a box that represents God the Father. That would seem to be complete except Jesus said, “just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you,”. So there is a fourth box representing Jesus surrounded by the Father who is surrounded by Jesus who is surrounded by the believer.
Another way of understanding is to see that the Scripture teaches when Christ died on the cross we, positionally, died with him. Romans six clearly states that we have been united with him in a death like his! In Colossians, chapter 3, Scripture teaches us that we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God. Further than that, verse four tells us, that Christ is our life! This is wonderful news! Since Jesus is the only one who ever lived a victorious life and He, upon our confession of faith in Him, has become our life! Jesus, who had no sin of His own, became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) If you are born again, through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, Christ has become your life! So that we can say with the apostle Paul, “the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We have Jesus’ life in us and now can rise above the “life” that we lived in the past. This is not a feeling that we have it is a fact that we need to act on. We are intertwined, in our spirit, with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit! We must know that Christ is living in us and act like He is living through us, and consequently, live like it! Jesus who is in us gives us victory over the world! For me to live is Christ and to die is gain! Life is nothing less than Christ and…
Death is being with Christ. Turn with me to Romans 14:7-9. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
The life that we now live is no longer our own, if we live, we live to the Lord, if we die, we die to the Lord. Jesus died for us so that we no longer live for ourselves but for Him. Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we should live like it! At the death of the believer there is an immediate transition — to die is gain! We need to remember that always, especially when we are down. It would seem that nothing could be greater than having Christ as our life while we’re on this earth. Paul assures us that death is better than life! Remember, Jesus Christ, who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. He who calls us is faithful and He will never leave us or forsake us while we are on this earth. He will either come back for us while we live or welcome us when we die. We need to choose life in Christ over the world’s way of living! Jesus came to give us abundant life. Believe it and behave like it!
Paul had many reasons to lose heart and live in depression yet he made a choice that wherever he was, in whatever condition he lived, he would be content. In fact, he had written to the Corinthians earlier, that he was content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities because when he was weak the strength of Christ could be revealed through him. He had written to the Romans that he actually rejoiced in suffering because suffering produces endurance which strengthens character and gives hope and courage. Today, we are not faced with the same identical problems as the first century church was but we are faced with opposition that is growing stronger every day. Put your faith in God — He will take you through whatever you have to face. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Whatever you face He will go with you. Confess Him as Lord! Today is the day of salvation.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.